Age: 15, Grade: 9
School Name: Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY
Educator: Yael Schick
20 Things I’m Afraid Of
I’m afraid of the beetle that falls from the windowsill, writhing spindly legs on their broken backs on hardwood floors.
I’m afraid of responsibilities and expectations and college and overdue taxes that grow on kitchen counters
I’m afraid of porcelain dolls with lace sleeves and glassy eyes and lips that smile red.
I’m afraid of losing feeling, first in your fingertips, and then your palms, but mostly emotionally.
I’m afraid of the bundle of clothes on your chair that looks like a man as you lay swaddled in covers drawn up to your nose late at night.
I’m afraid of little holes, lotus seeds.
I’m afraid of the bursting oil on the pan that scalds your skin.
I’m afraid of uncertainty and nothing being the meaning of everything.
I’m afraid of confrontation, fake friends, becoming too close, betrayal.
I’m afraid of swallowing fish bones that hide in fleshy white meat and scratch your throat, the same feeling I get sometimes, when I volunteer to speak.
I’m afraid of people that don’t listen to the word “no”.
I’m afraid of not liking what I see in the mirror and wanting nothing more than to be someone else.
I’m afraid of graphite pencils breaking paper skin.
I’m afraid of children with snotty noses and chocolate cheeks and fidgeting fingers.
I’m afraid of a bouncy rubber ball hitting me in the eye.
I’m afraid of white men in ill fitting suits that argue and debate on TV, but a little more so, the white men that nod as they watch them.
I’m afraid of the encroaching darkness that closes once in a while, when my brain tells me to forget how to breathe and I lean over the bedpost, heaving, eyes closed, heaving.
I’m afraid of writing this poem, what the words might sound aloud, mean to other people.
I’m afraid of being lonely, invisible, meaning nothing more than a speck of dust that dared once to breathe the air of the Earth and walk on two feet.
I’m afraid of something I’m afraid to admit. Sometimes, I’m afraid of myself.